Mind the gap! The technology frontline in the workplace
Millennial Amber Smith writes: Whilst waiting to go into a history lecture, I noticed that the students walking out of the engineering lecture were predominately male. As I looked around at my female peers - waiting for the history lecture - I realised the extent to which the gender gap still prevails and considered the impact this would have on our future working lives. Despite being a millennial, mathematics, IT and construction for example are still associated predominantly with a male image. You only have to walk into toy shops to see that gender differences are still promoted from an early age. Yet my generation does not expect or condone a gender gap: we expect to be able to go in to any job, at the same level, and be promoted and paid equally alongside our male counterparts.
Many of my friends are now completing their first year in the workplace. I have listened to their experiences - both positive and negative - over the past year. A common issue for them has not been the gender gap but the gap between generations, particularly when it comes to technology.
A friend in her early 20s has just moved finance houses, after completing only a year in her first job. This was not because she did not enjoy the type of work that she was doing, but because of feeling frustrated and undervalued. She felt frustrated by her colleagues’ lack of engagement with technological advances. She did not understand why the company was not continually looking at ways to make everything more efficient and digital. Additionally, due to her lack of commitments outside of work and her eagerness for quick promotion within the company, she was able to spend longer hours in the office than some of her older colleagues, who had more commitments. However, she felt unsupported by her colleagues - partly because she was working longer hours - but mainly because her suggestions regarding new technology were being dismissed. This, as well as a desire to work in a finance house that catered to a much younger workforce (more technologically aware, digitalised and fast-paced), led to her change in workplace.
I appreciate that the converse can apply: older employees with family commitments may be equally frustrated by younger staff, particularly if they feel that newcomers are promoted out of turn. It concerns me that the essential role of looking after a family appears to affect promotion opportunities. I can see how the generation gap could widen further as tech-savvy millennials come into the work place, working hard and striving for promotion, without family commitments. Furthermore, the pace of technological advances could make a return to the workplace hugely challenging for somebody who has taken a break to raise a family – an issue which is likely to affect many of my generation as we get older and in turn have our own families.
Already I can start to see the generation gap between my friends and our younger siblings, who are growing up with coding as part of their curriculum and development from primary school. This may make us too feel digitally illiterate, like generations before us.
Bridging the gap; marching forward
Advances in technology have caused generational tensions and I believe will continue to do so. It is therefore important for employers to bridge the gap; listening to younger employees and providing on-going education for all staff. If employers set up an online forum where employees could post, suggest and share innovative approaches, I think that millennial employees would feel more valued. Equally, I believe that this would allow older generations to stay ‘in the know’, without technology being a confrontational or combative issue; enabling much better knowledge of the latest technological advancements. In addition to employers needing to provide the older generation with the opportunity of being educated further in technology, I also believe that both my and future generations need to be taught that not everything can and will be instantaneous. If employers listen to and invest in both millennials and older generations alike, then the gap will be broken down. However, if employers do not, then they face the prospect of a lack of loyalty from millennials and the possibility of an older workforce feeling technologically illiterate.
About the author:
Amber Smith is a student at Exeter University and the winner of Callington Chambers' 2017 Bursary Award.